Players: Janet Bagguley

Janet Bagguley

Bagguley (right) with Jeannie Allott in 1972

Bagguley (right) with Jeannie Allott in 1972

Born: c.1955, Buxton

Position: Defensive midfield

Debut: Scotland (A) 18 November 1972

Occupation: TBC

Midfield enforcer Bagguley, 17, made it through the trials into Eric Worthington’s original England squad in 1972. She also played netball to a high standard.

She was one of two Macclesfield Ladies players to be picked, alongside the 16-year-old substitute goalie Susan Whyatt.

In November 1972 Bagguley anchored the midfield in England’s famous 3–2 debut win in Greenock.

Downmarket tabloid The Sun branded Bagguley: “this charmer from Cheshire who has been called the Nobby Stiles of ladies’ soccer.” But the journo conceded that she was better looking with more teeth!

Friend and contemporary Wendy Owen (2005) characterised Bagguley as: “Hard as nails and a ferocious tackler”.

Owen recalled the formation of a card school with the younger members of the squad: fellow ladettes like Bagguley and Jeannie Allott.

On 31 May 1974 unbeaten England thrashed the Netherlands 3–0 in Groningen. The report in the local Leeuwarder Courant paper credited the first goal to Sue Lopez, but Dutch FA (KNVB) records give it to Bagguley. Pat “Thunder” Davies hit the other two.

Controversially, Bagguley and the other members of the card school gave their WFA handlers the slip after the match and spent the day tearing it up in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

In September 1975 Bagguley was named on the bench for England’s match with Sweden at Plough Lane, Wimbledon. The game finished 1–3 — the second of two chastening beatings administered by the Swedes that year.

Bagguley started another win over the Netherlands at Borough Park, Blackpool on 2 May 1976, in the number 6 shirt. England won 2–1, but she was not included for the Home Nations tournament later that month.

Sue Lopez (1997) wrote that Bagguley was among several leading players who drifted out of football around 1978, frustrated with a general lack of direction and leadership.

UEFA women’s committee – an obstructionist sham composed entirely of male blazers – collapsed that year and properly organised international competitions seemed further away then ever.

The WFA’s Pat Gregory and Hannelore Ratzeburg from Germany eventually set up a proper UEFA committee which got things up and running.

It came too late for the likes of Bagguley, lost to the game in her early 20s.

Player: Miss C.V. Richards

The death of Miss C.V. Richards: A tragedy felt right round the world


England booked their place at the 2015 Women’s World Cup this week, with a 4–0 win in Cardiff. Wales’s mad five minutes just before half–time saw them ship three ridiculous goals and turned the match into a tedious cakewalk. But events at another match in South Wales some 90 years ago had far greater import for the history of women’s football…

In late 1926 Miss C.V. Richards died from injuries sustained in a football match in Glamorganshire. The outcry went round the world as far as the New York Times. In January 1927 a follow–up Associated Press (AP) release titled “ABANDON WOMEN’S FOOTBALL” went viral, 1920s style. It was regurgitated in the Straits Times, the Baltimore Sun and everywhere in between.

Many of the facts are lost in the mists of time. Records show the death of a Catherine Richards, 27, registered in English–Welsh border town Oswestry during the last quarter of 1926.

And there was a Caroline Richards registered dead at 19 in Oswestry during the first quarter of 1927 (perhaps after an inquest?).

But Oswestry is three hours away on modern roads. The real C.V. Richards might have been playing under her maiden name, or a pseudonym.

Amidst dark mutterings of “trouble”, Dick, Kerr’s Ladies infamously lost the support of their factory in 1926.

Most of the recent Dick Kerr’s literature assumes this to be tied in with that year’s general strike.

But public outcry at Richards’s death has been widely overlooked as another possible motive.

The short AP release which went round the world on Richards’s death bragged: “One of the best known women’s football clubs, called “Dick Kerrs” has already been disbanded.”

It was manna from heaven for those who wanted to stamp out women’s football altogether. There had been no shortage of experts reeled out to block it on medical grounds.

1908 Olympian and writer Eustace Miles, something of a Hooray Henry, reckoned that soccer’s “jerky movements” wrought havoc on female bodies.

Even Major W.B. Marchant, big–hearted boss of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association (WAAA), had an opportunist swipe:

[…] the day is not far distant when women’s football will be unknown in this country. Our association confines its attention to track and field events.

So was there any truth in this stuff? Well, frankly … yes.

1920s Dick, Kerr’s stalwart Alice Woods loved to rough–up opposition forwards. On the 1922 tour of the USA she decked Paterson FC’s Dunblane–born US Hall of Famer John McGuire.

Woods was laughing on the other side of her face when she got home in agony, sporting peritonitis and a strangulated hernia.

Barbara Jacobs related all this in The Dick Kerr’s Ladies (2004) but did not connect it with Woods’s buffetings given and received on the pitch.

Woods’s modern day equivalent, goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis, displayed the same Lancastrian heft in her own career.

She’s shredded both knees, broken bones, had her teeth kicked out and crocked her shoulder, her ankle, her fingers.

She once had her face literally smashed in – then took to the pitch wearing a Zorro–style protective face mask.

The past is a different country. Where today’s society tolerates, even admires, Brown-Finnis’s exploits, it was very different for Woods and Richards in the 1920s.

Verdict:


The death of a footballer in her prime is thankfully rare.

Another sad case was Camilla Larsson, a 19–year–old Sweden player who died in 1990. The Öxabäcks IF starlet bumped her head on a bench while training with her champion club.

The loss of C.V. Richards remains one of English football’s great tragedies. A tragedy compounded by the way it was seized upon by those who would use it for their own ends.

Sometimes to know where you are going it can be useful to know the truth about where you have been.

The time is ripe for Richards to take her honoured place in the story of our national game.

Ann Chiejine: Nigeria’s Princess of Goalkeepers

Ann Chiejine: Groundbreaking Falcons ‘keeper

Picture courtesy of Celebrating Ndi-Igbo

Picture courtesy of Celebrating Ndi-Igbo

We’ve all heard the lazy stereotypes about African goalkeepers (“naïve” “erratic”), and female goalkeepers (“rubbish”). Ann Agumanu-Chiejine is a living, breathing repudiation of both. One of Africa’s finest ever goalkeepers, the Nigerian’s athleticism and breathtaking acrobatic ability earned her five consecutive African Nations Cups with the Super Falcons, as well as a place at three World Cups and one Olympic Games. Here is her story

Born Onyeka Anna Agumanu in Imo State, 2 February 1974, girlhood sprint champion Chiejine had sport in her genes.

To her parents’ horror, she picked up the round ball game at school. Ann’s father feared football would transform her into a musclebound oaf – repulsive to men and doomed to a lonely childless future.

Only when a doctor gave the green light did Ann’s dad relent. In a bustling local soccer scene, she turned out for the Flying Babes, then Kakanto Queens.

A 5 ft 7 in beanpole, teenaged Chiejine started out as a gangly winger. After railing against her impact-substitute role at new club CN Okoli she was encouraged to try her hand between the sticks.

It proved an inspired move. As a goalkeeper she was an eccentric genius with a flair for the spectacular.

When the Nigerian Football Federation put together a team for the inaugural 1991 FIFA World Cup, 17-year-old Chiejine was already their undisputed number 1.

The Federation’s backing amounted to a battered old bus and some fuel, then 20 Nigerian Dollars daily allowance per player for the final tournament in China.

That’s chicken feed, but is still 20 Nigerian Dollars more than Irish national team players get – in 2014!

In 1992 Ann married Mr Uche Chiejine after a whirlwind romance, taking his moniker. Level-headed Uche kept things ticking over at home while Ann traversed the globe with the Super Falcons.

The marriage was eventually blessed with four children: two girls and two boys. This finally put Ann’s dad’s irrational fears to bed. Husband Uche became accustomed to the taste of Ann’s hearty soups, which she would cook then freeze before heading off on her latest soccer jaunt.

She remained between the sticks when Nigeria attended the 1995 FIFA World Cup in Sweden.

German stats boffins International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) made an embarrassing boob with their 1999 African Women’s Player of the Century list. In a rare lapse of Teutonic exactitude, Ann appeared TWICE in their top ten!

She collected 7 votes under her maiden name Ann Agumanu and 14 votes as Ann Chiojirie [sic]. Her total of 21 should have given her a share of first place, alongside lesbian-baiting striking legend Uche Eucharia.

Glamorous Chiejine was the proprietor of a fashion salon and she fixed her team-mate’s often extravagant hairdos. She shunned a promising modelling career after her first shoot brought unwanted attention from weirdos.

I like looking unique and splendid, so that those seeing you will know that football is no longer a game for failures, as it is widely believed. — Ann Chiejine

Always sporting a trendy bandana on the pitch, Chiejine modelled her style on the flamboyant Mexican Jorge Campos.

Cajoling, waving and shouting, extravert Chiejine never gave her defenders a moment’s peace throughout the 90 minutes.

Even the best ‘keepers have their off days. Chiejine’s tragedy was that hers came in the biggest game of her career: an atrocious performance in the 1999 World Cup quarter-final against Brazil at Stanford Stadium saw her substituted in the first-half.

Brazilian right-back Nenê’s innocuous punt sailed gently over Chiejine’s statuesque figure to put Brazil 3–0 ahead after half an hour. Irate Falcons coach Mabo had seen enough and gave her the hook.

She was replaced by her understudy, Judith “Kamala” Chime, who once had a trial with Ilkeston Town Ladies. The hulking Chime steadied the ship and Nigeria hit back to force extra-time, only for Sissi’s sumptuous free-kick to win it for Brazil.

Chiejine courted controversy by playing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics while pregnant. Armchair critics tut-tutted their disapproval as, with the bravery of a tigress, Chiejine dived in where the boots were flying.

It just wasn’t in her makeup to take it easy: outspoken United States forward Tiffeny Milbrett (nickname: no tact Tiff) complained of an alleged arm “stomp”  by a typically spirited Chiejine during the tournament.

In November 2000 Chiejine played in the African Nations Cup while even more pregnant. The wisdom of doing so looked questionable at best when the final against hosts South Africa infamously finished up in an full-scale riot.

She had spent her entire club career in Nigeria; taking in Flying Babes, Kakanto Queens, CN Okoli, Jegede Babes, Rivers Angels, Flying Angels, Larry Angels and Pelican Stars.

Chiejine fumed at the collapse of a prospective transfer to Arsenal Ladies in 1999. The British Embassy refused to issue her visa: “I thought the whole world was against me,” she seethed.

In 2005 Chiejine eventually hung up her gloves and bandana. She had been supplanted in the Super Falcons team by the unshowy Precious Dede.

As a keen student of the game she wanted to stay involved and give something back. She collected her badges and became a highly-educated coach. She went to the 2007 FIFA World Cup as one of Nigeria’s assistants and was also involved with the national youth team, the Flamingoes.

A spell coaching in Romania with CS Negrea Resita promised more than it delivered, but broadened Chiejine’s horizons all the same. In 2014 Chiejine manages City of David United in the Nigerian top–flight and runs her own successful soccer academy.

Note:

This article was intended to tie in with Nigeria sending England under 20s packing from the World Cup in Canada. But Chiejine’s story stood on its own two feet: it didn’t need that ‘angle’!

Anne O’Brien: Irish soccer legend

Anne O’Brien: Irish soccer star who carved out a glittering career on mainland Europe

This lovely photograph shows O'Brien (2nd right) beside the late Pierre Geoffroy during training with Reims. Two other players Dejean and Souef look on.

This lovely photograph from Vintage Football Club shows O’Brien (2nd left) beside the late Pierre Geoffroy during training with Reims in 1974. Two other players Dejean and Souef look on.

The girl from Dublin who dreamed big – overcoming incredible obstacles to make her mark in international soccer. In the course of a long and successful career she won six Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia winner’s medals and etched her name into women’s football folklore.

Born in January 1956 from impeccable footballing stock, O’Brien sprang from the same dynasty as male soccer stars Johnny Giles and Jimmy Conway.

1960s Dublin was marked by grinding poverty and right-wing Catholic extremism. It was a society with very firm ideas about what its young women should (and should not) be doing.

But O’Brien spent an idyllic childhood kicking a ball around with the boys, in time-honoured tradition. She blagged her way onto a women’s factory team then joined the Julian Bars women’s club.

A talented middle distance runner, she was pushed in that direction by well-meaning teachers and coaches who saw running for Ireland as the summit of her potential.

The headstrong O’Brien had other ideas, sticking with soccer and joining the Dublin All-Stars club where all the best local players had gravitated.

Image donated to Ballyfermot & St Marks Heritage Group by Ireland's centre forward Joan Williams. A fine player in her own right, Joan's club career took her to Wales.

Ireland’s line–up against Reims in 1973. Image donated to Ballyfermot & St Marks Heritage Group by Ireland’s centre forward Joan Williams. A fine player in her own right, Joan’s club career took her across the Irish Sea to Wales.

Her big break came in August 1973, when French giants Stade De Reims came to play the newly-minted Irish women’s national team at St James’s Park greyhound track in Kilkenny.

Reims anointed themselves as “women’s club world champions” and toured the globe, barnstorming against any opposition they could find.

Pierre Geoffroy, a devilishly handsome sportswriter from the L’Union newspaper, ran the Reims team.

That afternoon in Kilkenny, the performance of Ireland’s young left-half O’Brien bowled him over. She was a natural. There and then, he vowed not to leave the Emerald Isle without her signature on a contract.

Geoffroy was no dilettante. The driving force of women’s football in France, he also managed the national team for many years.

His eye for a player was legendary. He gave the great Rose Reilly her break in the pro ranks after a tip-off from a Daily Record hack.

As O’Brien was still only 17, smooth-talking Geoffroy had to convince her mum and dad to let her go. Realising that the game was in Anne’s DNA, her far-sighted parents let her follow her heart.

With full-time training and playing at a higher level, O’Brien’s game flourished. Her timing, intelligence and educated left foot became the fulcrum of Reims’s play.

Beautiful balance was the secret of her artistry: fluid movement combined with remarkable vision. Her flighted passes raked holes in opposition defences.

Before long her talents outgrew France and she was on the move again, this time to Lazio in Rome.

O'Brien (right) in Lazio colours with Danish goal-machine Susy Augustesen, 1981. Picture from

O’Brien (right) in Lazio colours with Danish goal-machine Susy Augustesen, 1981. Picture from LazioWiki.org

In those days, the Italian Serie A was where the money was – but also where the culture and style was.

O’Brien’s childhood in Dublin gave her the street smarts to thrive against Catenaccio defenders, who, pound-for-pound were every bit as tough and cynical as their male counterparts.

In her number 10 shirt, O’Brien played behind the strikers, as what the Italians call a trequartista. She moved on to Trani and formed a fearsome front three with Carolina Morace and Rose Reilly, bringing the club their first title in 1984.

She rounded out her career with three successive Scudetti, two with Reggiana and one with AC Milan, all behind the goals of Carolina Morace.

After hanging up her boots football addict O’Brien settled in Italy and went into coaching, getting her badges at the Italian FA’s Coverciano HQ.

After a gig with Milan’s youth team she briefly managed her old side Lazio. She even worked with Italy’s Under 17 national team.

O’Brien was perhaps Ireland’s outstanding female athlete of her generation, paving the way for Sonia O’Sullivan then Katie Taylor who followed in her stead.

What’s more, she might be the single greatest footballer ever to put on the famous green shirt.

That will be heresy to those who adhere to the old maxim: “Pelé good, Maradona better, George Best”.

And Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Paul McGrath can all lay their own claims to that particular title too.

But in a game of “show us yer medals” Anne beats them all – hands down.

And let’s face it – these guys had it all on a plate. The infrastructure was there for them.

It was sheer force of will – desire to go out and make her career happen – which led O’Brien to the very top.

Verdict:

It is high time that Ireland reclaimed its sporting heritage by giving O’Brien the recognition her achievements merit.

Over the last few years, belated and sometimes grudging recognition has come the way of Scots icon Rose Reilly. Her achievements were laid bare by the work of Stuart Gibbs and co. in the celebrated “First Ladies of Football” exhibition.

Quite rightly, Reilly was inducted into both the Football Hall of Fame and Scotland’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

In Reilly’s contemporary Anne O’Brien, Ireland has its very own icon from the classic era of women’s football. Where is her place in the Hall of Fame? Where is the respect?

Notes:

Thanks to football historian Nicholas Pascale (Wikipedia User:NIPAS) who researched and wrote the excellent Anne O’Brien article at the Italian Wikipedia. See also the article at the English Wikipedia.